Traditions are assets of the Newa community. There are many traditions and rituals that one has to go through during their lifetime, and these are unique to the community. There may be many rituals or communities in Nepal that hold the same belief system, yet no other community can be seen going through these rituals. Here are a few unique traditions that Newa community follows:
1. Yomari Luyikegu
This ceremony is held on the birthdays of two-year-old and four-year-old children of the Newa community. Here, mainly the women of the family prepare smaller yomaris (with aakhe, a kind of raw, unpolished rice seeds) and smaller lochamari (flat rice bread) for the tradition and mix them with flowers, rice, and fruits in a pot.
The mothers perform rituals and give the children sagun with egg and fish. Also, they put yomaris in a garland around their necks, two yomaris for the two-year-olds and four for the four-year-olds.
The ceremony is a symbol of a child being ready to eat solid food.
Ih or bel bibah is a unique ceremony that only young girls of the Newa community who are three to nine years of age.
Here, young girls are dressed as brides and perform a puja (holy ritual). The ceremony is usually held in groups but can be held individually too. Each girl holds a bel (fruit) between her hands, then the priests tie the hands with saki khipa (rope made of dried wheatgrass).
The ceremony is a symbol of a young girl stepping into womanhood. In fact, the bel is a symbol of the uterus and the whole ceremony is conducted to wish that the uterus be as strong as the fruit when she bears a child.
Bara, also known as gupha or Surya bibah, is another ceremony that a young girl of the Newa family goes through.
Here, the young girl is kept in hiding from the male members of the family and away from direct sunlight for four to 12 days. The girls are either kept at vihars or at their own homes while the female relatives bring her nutritious food and groom her for the next phase of her life.
The ceremony is generally conducted when the girl is on her first period. While is it not necessary that the girl performs the ceremony only after her periods, a girl will be kept in hiding on the day she gets her period, if she has not been kept in hiding already.
Once she is relieved from the hiding, she is dressed as a bride and then she gets ‘married’ to the Sun and observes the Sun as reflected in water before meeting any male members. This is also taken as a ritual in which the girl wishes for a guy who shares the qualities of the Sun God: sharp, strong and valiant.
This is a symbol that the ovaries are fully formed now and the girl is ready for motherhood physically.
Whereas there are two coming-of-age ceremonies for girls, there is one for boys. There are two ways the Newa community observes chudakarma. While the Buddhist Newa families dress the boys in the form of Lord Buddha, the Hindu Newa families dress their sons as Lord Ram and Lord Laxman.
In both ways, the boys have to shave their head and pay homage to a god. While Buddhist families clad their sons in a red robe with a spectre-like stick with the Buddha etched into it, the Hindu families clad them in yellow dhotis and give them bow and arrows.
The ritual is performed as a symbol of the adolescent males’ transformation into adulthood, capable of taking responsibilities.
5. Choosing Kumari
Living Goddess Kumari at Taleju temple during the Changunarayan Kalash Jatra, in Kathmandu, on Thursday, January 28, 2021. Photo: Chandra Bahadur Ale
Nepal is the only country in the world with a living goddess. The ritual has been in practice for more than five centuries, following King Jaya Prakash Malla making the Taleju Temple in Basantapur Durbar Square.
The girl selected as Kumari has to be a girl from Shakya clan of the Newa community, usually between the age of three to five. She is said to be and worshipped as the embodiment of Goddess Taleju. Those selected have to pass a number of strict criteria, including no marks on the body, no physical disability, among 32 traits, astrologically.
After the selection also, they have to follow a strict daily rituals and stay inside Kumari Ghar until the day she exits as Kumari. The selection ideally happens every 13 to 15 years.
6. Jyaaa Jankwo
This is a ceremony that is observed by both sexes. In the Jyaa Jankwo ritual, the family commemorate the day when an individual reaches 77 years, 7 months, and 7 days of his or her lifetime.
Generally, the ceremony is done individually but couples can also perform the same together. Between the spouses, if the husband meets the criteria, the wife can sit together.
The ritual marks that one has lived his or her life and can rest now. All the younger members of the family pay their respect, get blessings and pull them in a chariot as a symbol of sharing their celebration with the world.
When they live till 84 years of their lives, another Janku ceremony is performed. Yet, another Janku is celebrated when one completes 90 years.
7. Mha Puja
On the fourth day of Tihar, members of the Newa community also perform Mha Puja along with their new year (Nhuda). The day is unique because the Newa community takes the day as the day to worship one’s body.
They make a manda(la) in front of them and treat the body with good food and meditate for a prosperous year ahead.
Among the Buddhist Newa community, people also take Dekhaa. Dekhaa means to take a mantra from the priest who has taken dekhaa himself. Those who take dekhaa follow the principles and philosophies of Buddha. Other Newa communities also take dekhaa, however, their set of mantras are different with thier own set of rules to follow.
The mantra they get from the priests is secret not to be uttered in presence of others. Only during their daily pujas and meditation can they utter the mantra. The whole ceremony and its details are also kept a secret from those outside the community.